Louisville's Rick Pitino sounds off on alleged recruiting scandal

ByMyron Medcalf ESPN logo
Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rick Pitino says he doesn't care what critics think about him these days.

And the Louisvillecoach proved as much during a lengthy news conference Friday, questioning former escort Katina Powell's credibility and saying he was accused of intimidating witnesses by the NCAA, which he said has yet to interview him about the matter.

In a book published last year, Powell alleged that Andre McGee, a former men's basketball staffer at Louisville, hired dancers to strip and have sex with recruits and players at Billy Minardi Hall, an on-campus dorm.

"What bothers me about you is you say I know everybody's body fat, you must know about this," Pitino said during the news conference ahead of Sunday's matchup against Wake Forest. "That pisses me off beyond your wildest dreams. Because that took place at Billy Minardi Hall and we didn't get one recruit ... somebody criminally came onto our campus."

Pitino also took exception with ESPN, which interviewed Powell in October. She told Outside the Lines that of the roughly two dozen women whom she says she brought to the dorm from 2010 to '14, all but five or six had sex for money with former Louisville players, active Cardinals players, or recruits who were visiting the campus. Five former players and recruits also told OTL that they attended parties that included strippers paid for by McGee.

"I'm pissed off at ESPN for even giving a forum to that person," he said Friday. "If there are crimes being committed, why is the NCAA or ESPN giving a forum to that person?"

Powell's attorney, Larry Wilder, called Pitino's comments "a distraction to the truth."

"The NCAA went through each page of Ms. Powell's five journals," Wilder told ESPN's John Barr. "There were hundreds and hundreds of pages written about a myriad of events going on in her life during those several years that she was involved with Mr. McGee providing 'entertainment' at the university. It is very clear that the journals weren't created for the singular purpose of impugning the university. There are a litany of players that have confirmed these events took place that we know about. We aren't privy to the other players across the country that have been interviewed and confirmed these events. Unfortunately, tragically, what Ms. Powell said took place at the university took place.

"Ms. Powell continues to stand by her journals, her statements and the statements of those who have been interviewed by journalists, investigators and other lawyers."

Pitino said he has not been interviewed by NCAA officials, and that he does not expect the investigation to conclude before July. He reiterated that he didn't know about any sexual improprieties in the players' dormitory -- "I guarantee if a chair gets broken in Minardi Hall and I find out about it, there's gonna be a problem," he said -- but did say he now believes McGee did commit violations.

"Did one person do some scurrilous things? I believe so," he said. "What I know now, I believe so. The only thing I don't know is I don't know why he did it. He was taught better by his parents and me."

Pitino again questioned Powell's credibility. He said school officials who spoke with the Indianapolis Business Journal, the book's publisher, told them that Powell "can't complete two sentences to write a book." He said her allegations prompted a personal investigation, which the NCAA did not endorse. He noted that he didn't attend ACC media day in Charlotte, North Carolina, due to the NCAA's concerns.

"The NCAA's upset at me because I say I can't find one person, not one, that knew anything about it," he said. "The NCAA says, 'You're intimidating the witnesses.' That wasn't my intent to say that. So that's why I didn't go to media day. They tell me I'm intimidating. Soon as this happened, I went ballistic on everybody. Wait a second. You didn't know one single thing? You didn't know one single thing? You're the security person. You never saw a thing in four years and you worked around the clock? ... The reason that nobody saw anything is they knew all hell would break loose if I found out one single thing was going on."

Pitino also reiterated that he didn't flip off fans after Louisville's loss at Kentucky last weekend but admitted that he didn't attend the postgame news conference at Kentucky in part because "I don't want to hear about the scandal."

He said he won't discuss the Louisville sex scandal again in 2016.

But why was he so candid on New Year's Day?

"There's only one good thing about being 63," he said. "You don't care what people think."

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